Aug 15, 2008

The transfer window that wasn't

By Smoods, proper Brit.

Welcome to the first of many postings on Soccer Source dedicated to English Premier League. I’ll be doing what I can to help our esteemed site host and bring a truly British flavor to the site. Without further ado, let’s start the first part of our two-part review of the transfer business this summer.

Unfortunately, this post won’t be as interesting as it could have been had Cristiano Ronaldo, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Adebeyor, Kaka, Robinho, Dimitar Berbatov all got their wish and left their clubs. Then, we’d be looking forward to how Manchester United were going to cope without their most prolific player, what Arsenal and Chelsea were going to do without their attacking spearheads and how the Premiership had truly arrived as the world’s best league after luring the World Player of the Year.

Instead, we had a rare show of club power after years of seeing playing power grow. The biggest clubs locked horns with their star players, and with other top clubs, and managed to hold their ground. Why the change? It’s hard to pinpoint one common reason (readers, please let us know what you think).

The theory here is that coincidence has mingled with personal greed this summer. Coincidence in that different factors have been at work in pushing each club to keep hold of their assets. Ronaldo’s failure to get his move to Spain is not so surprising when one realizes that Sir Alex Ferguson has never sold a player he wanted to keep (though the circumstances surround Andrei Kanchelskis’ transfer remain unclear). And after their messy and spiteful divorce from Jose Mourinho, was it likely that Chelsea would sell Frank Lampard to Inter Milan? Meanwhile Arsenal, having already lost Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini, could ill-afford to have another first team player leave this summer.

As for personal greed, there is a thought that many of the players pushing for a move to another club were simply blackmailing their clubs into giving them a higher salary. Cynical, you say? Well, articles about Robinho, motives attributed to Adebayor and comments from those close to Kaka suggest that money may be a large motivating factor. And let’s not forget that after a summer of posturing, Frank is now the highest paid player in the Premiership. If this is the case, then it’s fair to say the players were never really serious about leaving—they just wanted more money. Club power indeed.

(In Drogba’s defence, his decision to stay despite a lack of a new contract suggests that his desire to leave was prompted by his anger at Mourinho’s sacking, rather than more base motives.)

So will we see any of these stars changing clubs? Despite Peter Kenyon’s bullish statements, it still seems unlikely that Robinho will move. But Berbatov’s transfer to Manchester United appears as good as done.

And, with respect to Tottenham fans, that move is the one switch of all those mentioned that also makes complete footballing sense. Unlike the other players, Berbatov is not at one of Europe’s top clubs, and he isn’t playing regular European football. Berbatov is clearly a player who should be appearing in the Champions League every season, and while Spurs seem on the right track, they’re still a ways from that. It’s understandable that, as he enters his prime (he’ll be 28 mid-season), he wants to play regularly in Europe’s top event. This is a guy who’s already played in one Champions League final, don’t forget.

Later on Friday, we’ll analyze that moves that were actually made, and a Premiership preview is coming Saturday.

Meanwhile, please let me know what kind of things you’d like to see as part of this site’s coverage of English football.

Smoods is a proper Brit and sometime contributor to the Soccer Source. He can be reached at

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